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Scott McQuilkin '84, Ph.D., flat-out loves Whitworth. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Whitworth, played outfield for Pirates Baseball, and met his spouse, Janice (Rasmussen) McQuilkin '85, here. He has since dedicated 38 years of his professional life to the university, fulfilling the wide-ranging responsibilities of 10 job titles. He assumed his latest role in February. Get to know Whitworth's 19th president.

Edited by Julie Riddle '92

Why did you choose to attend Whitworth?

During my senior year of high school, I received a Whitworth catalog in my home mailbox. To this day, I have no idea how my name and address wound up on a Whitworth mailing list. I've been unable to connect the dots except that, perhaps, the college had access to my Young Life Club roster. While visiting my brother in Spokane, I strolled through campus on a cold, gray pre-Thanksgiving Saturday, simply a straight path between the HUB and fieldhouse and then back again. I saw one face in the window of a residence hall. Not exactly the type of self-guided campus-tour experience an admissions staff would advise. Nine months later I moved into McMillan Hall where my Whitworth journey began, which brought me lifetime friends, my family, and spiritual growth and perspective I can't imagine having found anywhere else like I have here.

Who at Whitworth has influenced you over the years and in what ways? 

[President Emeritus] Bill Robinson has been a central person in my life. He invested in me, he mentored me, and I have learned immensely by observing him. I am grateful for the cabinet seat I had with [former President] Beck Taylor. I have been known to remark about his executive chops, which were substantial. I could mention dozens of other mentors and models, wonderful people who have impacted my life, but I'll stop there. 

How would you describe your leadership style?

I see my role as working with and for students, staff and faculty. That will manifest itself in ways too many to count, but if, at the end of my service, I was known to be a person who served others, I'll count that as a good thing. I hope people experience me as a person of encouragement and as someone with very high expectations of myself and others. I am interested in being associated with excellence. And I hope to rely on a well-founded self-awareness that Whitworth will be its best when smart and talented colleagues have the floor, when I listen well, and we then move forward.

How have your various roles at Whitworth prepared you to lead Whitworth now? 

I had the unusual circumstance of becoming a head college baseball coach when I was 22 years old, which meant that I was an authority figure for former teammates. I had to learn quickly how to effectively work with others and build a successful team. Teaching on the Core 150 and Core 350 teams for a decade stretched me, and those assignments also helped me better grasp academic content central to our mission, in addition to giving me the gift of watching some of Whitworth's most talented professors ply their craft. The role of athletics director afforded me the opportunity to oversee a program that involves nearly one-quarter of the undergraduate student body, with the complexities of facilities, personnel, fundraising, compliance and problem-solving. I don't know how thick my skin is, but the AD role added some epidermal layers. Through the vice president for institutional advancement role, I was afforded the opportunity to work closely with our trustees and meet many of our alumni, supporters and parents. And, of course, sitting on cabinet provided an immersion experience in all things Whitworth, from finance and technology to campus ministry and the health center. At all stops, I've been on teams where success was dependent upon the optimized work and well-being of the individual and the collective. That truth takes me back to the 22-year-old Scott crafting practice plans that included specific ways to help every single player get better and for the entire team to improve. Every day. We needed to be superior in what we knew, how we trained, and how we performed. And we needed to ensure that our good people were known and valued.

Tell us about your doctoral work.

My Ph.D. is in sport history. At Pennsylvania State University, I spent most of my time in the history department in classes with history master's and Ph.D. students. For a class on the history of labor in the U.S., when others did research on the UAW or AFL-CIO, I researched and wrote on the applicability of antitrust laws and collective bargaining in professional sports. For a class on ancient Roman history, my research interest was digging into the Theodosian Code and better understanding why the ancient Olympic Games, after a 1,100-year uninterrupted run, ceased to exist. For my dissertation, my interest about the Progressive Era was on national reform for intercollegiate athletics, a movement that created the NCAA.

What are Whitworth's strengths? 

We have an enduring mission, one that we know and embrace. We have incredibly talented faculty and staff who serve our students with dedication and care. We provide our students a first-rate academic, residence life, ministry and co-curricular experience, all of which are recognized by our peers and rating organizations. And we know who we are in the higher education landscape – a place that believes faith and reason, and curiosity and conviction, are complementary rather than in conflict. Mission and people. We excel in both. 

Above, left: Scott and Janice celebrate Janice's Nordic heritage during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Right: The McQuilkin family, August 2021 (clockwise, from back row left): son Tyler '16 and daughter-in-law Lani (Wahl) '18; daughter Kelsey (McQuilkin) Welle '14; Scott '84; daughter Morgan (McQuilkin) Galle '12 and grandson Samuel; spouse Janice (Rasmussen) '85 and granddaughter Anna; grandson Jackson. Not pictured: sons-in-law Skyler Galle and Luke Welle '14.

Below, from left: McQuilkin and Janice (Rasmussen), McQuilkin '85 in front of West Warren Hall, 1983. McQuilkin during his tenure as Whitworth's director of athletics, 1996-2009. Head Baseball Coach McQuilkin with assistant coaches Randy Russell '89, MAT '91 (left) and Don Lindgren '89, in 1990. McQuilkin with daughters Morgan, left, and Kelsey; he served as assistant baseball coach at The Pennsylvania State University from 1991-93.

What challenges and opportunities does Whitworth face? 

The lingua franca of the day includes "the demographic cliff," more specifically, that in just a few years we'll get hit with the birth decline echoes of the Great Recession, making the competition for students greater than ever. We know the effects of the pandemic will not fully go away, so we are working through our adaptability to student and employee needs while maintaining our relational identity and practices.

What are your top priorities for 2022?

To oversimplify, I'm framing my thinking in terms of preserve and advance. In an unsettled world and amid challenging issues for higher education, we must preserve our Christ-centered mission and how we live that out. We must preserve our uncommonly collegial community spirit. And we must advance in the ways our students experience a sense of belonging. We must be responsive to opportunities in online delivery, graduate and continuing studies programs, and traditional undergraduate programs that appeal to students while maintaining the richness of the liberal arts that undergird our curriculum.

What is the status of the new strategic plan that will guide the university over the next five years?

University Council began our work last spring with visioning questions, namely, "What does our very best picture of Whitworth in 2028 look like? How are we distinctive and unique? What differentiates Whitworth from other schools? What do we do well that isn't shared by other schools, or at least not shared in the same ways?" From the answers to those questions, we have identified our strategic plan goals and objectives, upon which we will flesh out our key performance indicators. Our internal and external constituencies will have a voice in the final product.

What is one directive that guides you in your work as president? 

Mission fulfillment. Each word of our mission statement is included for a reason. Each word informs how we function. Our "diverse student body": we are a diverse community, and we are becoming more so; "education of mind and heart": faith-learning integration; "equipping": it's a verb that suggests our students – traditional undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies – will be different people when they cross the commencement stage; "honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity": a noble calling. My charge is to serve and uphold the mission.

So...what's he really like? Friends, family and colleagues share the top three attributes that describe Scott McQuilkin.

What inspires you about Whitworth students?  

Our students exemplify our mind-and-heart mission. They are smart, and they are passionate about making the world a better place through vocation and service. Wherever a Whitworth graduate is planted in community, church or occupational soil, I am confident that space is better for their presence. 

How do you connect with students amid your demanding schedule?  

For good or for bad, my face got splashed all over campus and the Inland Northwest because of this appointment. The great outcome for me is that students now recognize me. That allows me to connect, ask questions and get to hear their stories. Janice and I attend chapel almost every Tuesday, we host a student Life Group each week, and we host student groups in Hawthorne House. We try to make every event we possibly can, whether music, athletics, theatre, guest speaker or student club. 

What role does faith play in your life and in your work?  

I am a sinner saved by the atoning death of Jesus, and his grace I receive is due to no merit of my own. We all bear the image of God. And this good news of the gospel is to be proclaimed. My life, work, relationships and interactions are informed and shaped by Scripture. I am at my best with a daily dose of the Psalms and Proverbs. I am also greatly encouraged by how many people pray for me and Janice, and for the university. Those prayers are felt, and they sustain us. 

What Scripture verse has been important to you throughout your life?

One of many I'd note is Philippians 2:1-11. I never tire of reading about what Jesus, being the very nature of God, did for us. In the following chapter, the Apostle Paul lists his immense credentials, something we can tend to do in higher education, and then he writes that they are mere rubbish compared to knowing Christ. Paul captures my attention, which sometimes feels like a two-by-four to the forehead.

How has your family responded to you becoming president?

One spouse, three kids, four reactions. Those reactions included pride, concern, curiosity and whimsy. Putting that all together, our crew expressed concern about the weight of the job for both me and Janice, joy in seeing Dad in this role at a place they deeply love, and curiosity and whimsy along the lines of, "How the heck did that happen when you weren't in the mix for the permanent role?!?!"


Whitworth alumni in family

Modeling stint (Sears, age 5)

NAIA District 1 championships won as Pirates Baseball head coach/times named Coach of the Year

Combined years teaching on the Whitworth Core 150 and Core 350 teams

Million raised in The Campaign for Whitworth under McQuilkin's leadership as vice president for institutional advancement

McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports Trophies won during tenure as Whitworth athletics director

Summers guest speaking at Camp Spalding's fifth- and sixth-grade campus

Acting roles: Basketball Player #2 in the movie The Basket (1999) and Egeus in Whitworth's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (2003)

Years serving on/chairing the board of directors of Northwest Harvest, the leading hunger-relief agency in Washington state

What are your sources for discernment and encouragement when you encounter challenges? 

I benefit from a great cloud of Whitworth-connected witnesses. Their voices provide perspective, encouragement, correction and counsel. In whatever decisions are mine to make, I get to a better place through wise friends and colleagues. I am most grateful for Janice. There are better halves to marriage equations; she is the better seven-eighths, and that may be giving myself too much credit. That is not a self-effacing comment. People know it, and I admit it.

What are three of your favorite Whitworth moments? 

The October 2014 events surrounding the public launch of The Campaign for Whitworth. We did such a wonderful job of celebrating Whitworth's history, we offered a compelling view of our future, and we did so with a huge segment of the Whitworth family in attendance. In 1996, I can still see the six charter buses, filled with students, turning a street corner and heading toward me one hour before tipoff of the 1996 national championship basketball game in Nampa, Idaho. And I think about the weddings of our three kids, all of which felt like Whitworth community events. They spoke to the deep connections people make on our 200-acre footprint.

How did you and Janice meet? What qualities do you appreciate about her?

I first met Janice at a chance encounter in the library, where I was doing far more talking than studying. We began to date during my junior year, her sophomore year, after mutual friends invited us to a post-Don Francisco (look him up) concert food run. I ordered strawberry waffles at midnight in a Shari's restaurant. Janice was smitten. But I have since learned that her heart skipped a beat mostly because of the waffles. I have made it a practice to order the same meal whenever we travel to keep that spark alive and prompt her recall. Janice is smart, infinitely kind, genuine, warm and stunning. She has her nose in a novel every night, which I find endearing.

Professor Emeritus Dale Soden said to ask you about "The Catch." Do tell!

On a trip to Seattle in 1998, as we drove past Moses Lake, I made the mistake of telling Dale about the greatest catch I ever made in a baseball game in vivid detail (wind direction, temperature, game situation, the stakes of the game). It truly was a great catch. Since then, every time I've been with Dale on I-90, as we approach Moses Lake, he says, "Tell us about 'The Catch.'" In certain circles now, I believe my catch is surpassed only by Willie Mays' catch in the 1954 World Series.


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